Ask an expert: coexist with wildlife during a drought

Just as humans must learn to adapt to changes in water availability during a drought, so do wildlife. Less water means less habitat available for wildlife, and since Utah is home to significant numbers of wildlife, prolonged drought can create a perfect storm for human-wildlife conflict at the city-wilderness interface. .

As deer, cougars, bears, raccoons, snakes, and other wildlife seek food, water, and shelter during a drought, they may travel further than usual to more areas. developed and crammed into smaller spaces. This will make them more susceptible to disease, predators, and competition with other animals and humans.

Deer, elk, and bighorn sheep can feed closer to roads, making animals more vulnerable to collisions with vehicles. With fewer berries and acorns available, bears will eat trash, grease from barbecues, birdseed, and sugar water from hummingbird feeders. Raccoons and skunks may forage for garden vegetables and pet food.

Less water also means less cover for nesting animals such as young deer, American antelopes, and elk, making these animals more vulnerable to predators. Less water means less habitat available for waterfowl, beavers, muskrats and other animals.

Drought conditions often increase interactions between humans and wildlife. You can avoid conflict with wildlife by being mindful of your actions and your surroundings. Consider these tips:

  • Store garbage, feed, and horse / cattle grain indoors.
  • Dispose of garbage regularly and wash garbage cans to reduce odors.
  • Clean the grates after each use to reduce grease and odors. If possible, store them inside a garage or building.
  • Regularly clean the areas under bird feeders. If bears are a major problem in your area, consider removing bird feeders until winter.
  • Clean up fallen or rotten fruit and vegetables from yards and gardens. Rotten fruit attracts bears, raccoons and skunks.
  • Be aware that well-watered lawns and gardens can also attract more rodents, which are prey for snakes. In recent weeks, the number of reports of people seeing snakes in city parks has increased.
  • If you encounter stray wildlife such as bears, cougars, deer, and poisonous snakes in a park or other area of ​​public use, contact local law enforcement authorities to have signs posted. warning signs can be placed in areas to inform others of potential hazards.

For more information visit WildAwareUtah.org.


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